Statement from KildareStreet on September 19th 2012
KildareStreet forced to stop publishing Dáil and Seanad transcripts by Oireachtas
KildareStreet.com is a non-partisan website which makes it not only easy for people to keep tabs on their elected representatives in the Houses of the Oireachtas, but actually possible for them to do this - quickly, clearly, and electronically - for the first time ever in the history of the Republic. KildareStreet provides a readable copy of the parliamentary record, allows voters to finally search for and find information within it, get RSS feeds for TDs and Senators and set up email or RSS alerts for people or search terms. It also allows active commenting by visitors on what was said.
On September 18th, 2012, with no warning or published statement of intent, a significant change to the Houses of Oireachtas website housing the public record of Dail and Seanad debates was made, effectively killing KildareStreet.com for the foreseeable future.
The public data that was previously published at debates.oireachtas.ie has been mothballed, and all new publication there has ceased. Without the publication of these XML-formatted transcripts from the Oireachtas and the Seanad, KildareStreet.com, Ireland’s largest open data project to date, has been summarily terminated by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Key points for visitors
- XML is the universal format for complex open data. Before yesterday Ireland’s parliament was a world leader in this regard, publishing the entire record of proceedings as structured open data. That leading position has now been abandoned.
- The government’s eGovernment Strategy explicitly states that “All public bodies will publish appropriate data in machine-readable formats to facilitate re-use”. Taking a pre-existing repository of data and cancelling it has accomplished the precise opposite.
- The Oireachtas's Head of Communications has stated, unconvincingly that Kildare Street “may not have the software to capture our content from our new debates site.” Since there is no longer any XML data feed (or any other data feed) to capture, we challenge him to cite whatever magical software he imagines can capture a vacuum.
- As the Oireachtas budget for the new site is not made public, we cannot tell you how much it cost to summarily break KildareStreet. What we can tell you is that KildareStreet receives no government funding and has been run for three and a half years on a single private fundraising bequest of €5,800, raised from 67 heroic private citizens in 2009.
- Since then, we have served 2,633,823 pages (971,399 in the past 12 months) to 570,486 unique visitors, 86.24% of them in Ireland, with 7,871 of them receiving automatic email alerts for specific topics. Approximately 35% of our trafficoriginates from addresses allocated to the Irish Government (Source: Google Analytics). KildareStreet’s traffic first swept past that of the Oireachtas Debates site a week after launch.
The new Oireachtas debates website does not have a search engine of any kind, is hostile to disabled users, is riddled with bugs which lead users to dead-end error pages, and has been intermittently offline since launch. It is impossible to link to a particular statement, or to follow a particular topic, or to get email alerts of any kind. All of these services and more have been freely provided by KildareStreet, to the benefit of city councillors, TDs, Senators, charities, students and voters. With the launch of the new Oireachtas Debates site, these services no longer exist and we can no longer provide them to you.
KildareStreet.com stands as Ireland’s leading example of citizens using public data sets to deliver crucial information. By abandoning provision of records in an open and free format, the Houses of the Oireachtas have taken a chilling step backwards for open data, for e-government and for transparent democracy in Ireland.
Need to contact us?
You can reach John Handelaar on firstname.lastname@example.org.